Located in the center of Massachusetts, Springfield Armory National Historic Site is a great stop to check out while visiting New England. If you are interested in small arms, their history and how they were produced for so many years, this place is for you. And even if checking out vintage weapons is not your thing, this spot is great to stop in to learn about the impact it had on manufacturing techniques in the United States, even if you only have a few minutes.
This was the site of the first armory in the United States and produced weapons for nearly 200 years. Here you’ll find information as to the history of arms making in the United States, as well as some beautiful grounds to explore amongst the historic buildings.
Our guide should give you an idea on how best to spend your time here, and whether or not a visit to the Springfield Armory National Historic Site is for you!
SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE HISTORY
The armory started in 1794, when President George Washington agreed to have the location in charge of manufacturing muskets. Along with the armory at Harpers Ferry, this was one of only two armories in the United States. During the Civil War, this was the only armory in service.
The armory is different than an arsenal, in that an arsenal is only used for storing weapons and ammunition. Over the years, the location grew to be not just manufacturing of weapons, but also greatly advanced their design. Additionally, the manufacturing technologies used to make these precision instruments was particularly ahead of its time.
This armory remained in service until 1960, and produced small arms ranging from muskets all the way to rifles that were used in conflicts as recently as the Gulf War. Some of the arms are still available to specialized units today.
In 1974, Congress established Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Today the site contains 55 acres and shares the grounds with Springfield Technical Community College, which uses some of the historic buildings that were once used by the Armory (though they have been upgraded).
ACTIVITIES IN SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Springfield Armory National Historic Site map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The grounds of the Springfield Armory are quite small. In fact, only about 22 acres of the original armory is occupied by the present-day Historic Site. However, they are quite beautiful. Even though you won’t find hiking, there are plenty of places to walk around and enjoy the outdoors. It truly is a wonderful setting, despite the mission of the armory.
While here, there are a few activities that we recommend:
- Springfield Armory Visitor Center. The visitor center is the main attraction, without a doubt. When the armory was in operation, this was the Main Arsenal building. From the outside, the building itself is quite impressive. Put in service in 1849, this building used to store up to 300,000 firearms! Inside the visitor center, there are a ton of exhibits and information about both the weapons that were produced hare as well as the manufacturing methods used to create them. This actually is the largest collection of American firearms on display in the world. Inside there are also the Park Rangers, and we found them to be particularly outgoing and helpful as they answered questions about the history, or anything else you would want to know about the Armory. There is also a small gift shop. Expect to spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours exploring the Visitor Center, depending on your interest in the individual weaponry displays.
- Commanding Officers Quarters. Built in 1847, the Commanding Officers quarters is an impressive residence. It was the subject of great controversy over the years, due to the extravagance of the structure and surrounding gardens. The building of it led to increased scrutiny in government spending. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking the short walk from the visitor center over to the quarters and peering into the windows. The structure is not open for visiting and is in the slow process of restoration.
- Junior Officers’ Quarters. The structure was completed in 1870 and served to house the officers stationed at the Armory. It was renovated in 2017 and is not able to be toured, but quite beautiful from the outside and sits on the corner of the Green.
- Picnicking. There are several picnic tables that surround the Armory grounds, including one on the porch of the Commanding Officers quarters. The grounds overlook the city of Springfield, MA and have extraordinarily large shade trees. Because of the openness and the location at the top of a hill, it can be a bit breezy up here, so just keep an eye out on the weather if heavy winds are expected.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE?
Since Springfield Armory National Historic Site is located right in the heard of Springfield, MA, there is actually quite a bit to do around the area (though most of it involves being indoors). Some possibilities include:
- Springfield Museums. Just to the south of the Armory is a set of four museums, known as the Springfield Museums. They consist of museums that cover art, history and science. The fourth is dedicated to Dr. Seuss, which includes a sculpture garden.
- Basketball Hall of Fame. Though we haven’t been, the Basketball Hall of Fame is certainly a destination that is worth checking out if you are a fan of the sport.
HOW TO GET TO SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Springfield, MA has two major interstates passing through it, including Interstates 90 (running east-west) and 91 (running north-south). While most National Park sites require plenty of out-of-the-way travel, Springfield Armory NHS is actually located in a fairly convenient location.
One you arrive at the main gate, you’ll follow the signs to the parking area on the west side of the green. There is plenty of parking that is reserved for visitors of the NHS.
ENTRANCE FEES AND REQUIRED PASSES FOR SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
There are no entry fees for Springfield Armory National Historic Site.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Since the Armory itself is indoors, you can visit the site any time of year and have a good experience. However, if you want to stroll around the grounds and have the gardens in bloom, then we recommend May through September.
ARE PETS ALLOWED AT SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE?
Pets are welcome on the grounds, but they must be kept on a leash. No animals (besides service animals) are allowed in the buildings.
RELATED INFORMATION ON SPRINGFIELD ARMORY NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- If you are coming to Massachusetts, we also recommend checking out What to See and Do in Cape Cod National Seashore as well as What to See and Do in the Minute Man National Historical Site.
- After you get back from your visit, get one of our custom, vintage travel posters, where we take a photo that you send to us and turn it into an amazing travel memory!